HAS it really been a month already?
It seems like the spectacular NBA season has been equal parts eternal and instant.
Anyway, a lot of things have happened, and we’re here to recognise the best and the worst of the NBA’s first month (or so) of play:
BEST RIVALRY: KEVIN DURANT VS. RUSSELL WESTBROOK
Durant left and Westbrook acted like he wasn’t angry. That’s surprising. He should have been angry. Slowly but surely that anger crept out in the most passive aggressive ways possible, culminating with Westbrook wearing a Photographer’s Vest, which is in no way fashionable and clearly a shot at Durant, who counts photography as a hobby, to their first match-up of the year.
The Warriors won, emphatically, and have been burning and churning, for the most part, ever since. Durant is playing with joy and Westbrook is playing with the fire of 1,000 suns in an MVP-caliber season. Every tweet and Instagram post seems to be a hit on the other — look at how well I’m doing without you! It’s incredible stuff, even if the game they played was garbage.
MOST UNREPENTANT: DEMAR DEROZAN
DeMar is only missing one thing from his game right now — a Lakers’ jersey with No. 8 or No. 24 on it.
He might not have the rings, but the game is damn close. The money is close too.
Since signing a max deal with Toronto in the off-season, DeRozan hasn’t changed a damn thing about his mid-range jumper-heavy game. He’s just become an assassin with it. The final holdout of a bygone era. Y’all can deal with it as he drops 35 on you every night.
DeRozan is leading the NBA in points per touches this year, averaging 0.45 points every time the ball enters his hand. Those are Kevin Durant numbers, and he’s one of the greatest players in NBA history (feel free to @ me on that). Yeah. DeRozan is pretty good.
BIGGEST SURPRISE: THE WASHINGTON WIZARDS ARE BAD NOW
John Wall is having a good year — seriously, he is — but he and Bradley Beal seem to be playing for different teams right now and Marcin Gortat straight up called out the Wiz’s bench for being terrible.
Things are going great!
Their defence is shambolic and while there’s talent on the team and plenty of time to figure it out this year — there’s not much to grab onto to substantiate optimism.
The Wiz were expected to be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference this year. That status is questionable after this poor start.
MOST UNSUPER SUPERTEAM: THE NEW YORK KNICKS
The Knicks aren’t bad this year. They are probably going to contend for a playoff spot, even though we said that last year and it didn’t work out.
But the Knicks are not the Superteam that Derrick Rose promised this past off-season. In fact, they seem to be the same old Knicks with a more mature Kristaps Porzingis and a better point guard in Rose.
So that’s good, I guess.
You know what would really help? An innovative offensive system. Have you heard of the Triangle?
BEST SUPPORTING PLAYER: J.J. REDICK
Redick has been awesome for a while and his stats are technically down this year, but he’s just been … awesome.
The Clippers have also been awesome — led by tremendous years from Chris Paul (who is an MVP candidate), the versatile Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan (who is doing DJ things to an even higher level this year).
But in the Clippers’ tweaked offence — it’s more of a high motion weave these days — Redick’s deadeye shooting has been vital and his defence is perpetually underrated.
Who knows if the Clippers can beat the Warriors in a 7-game series? We can say this — they’re certainly a lot better this year for several reasons, and Redick’s steady play is a big one.
BEST ROOKIE: JOEL EMBIID
He’s healthy and he’s spectacular.
We knew that Embiid would be a stat-line filler — he can rebound and block shots — but did anyone see this kind of offensive game developing? He’s a menace out there.
He can put the ball on the floor with poise, shoot the 3 (what?!!!) and would you look at that, he’s 6th in the NBA in points per 48 minutes.
The guy is on a minutes restriction and is still the best rookie in the league. That’s impressive.
SNEAKIEST TANK JOB: MIAMI HEAT
Remember when Miami was a playoff team last year? I even thought they would have given the Cavs their best shot in the playoffs. Well, they have five wins in 16 games this season, one game up on the Nets and 76ers.
It makes some sense for the Heat to tank this year (not that that’s what they’re doing …) because they don’t have a first-round pick in 2018. This is their last chance to land a big-time talent, and the 2017 Draft is loaded. After that, free agency — but they need another piece to go with this team to attract a big player like, say, Westbrook.
MOST MEN IN THE LANE AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT: CHICAGO BULLS
The Bulls wanted pace-and-space. They’re not getting it.
While Jimmy Butler is playing out of his mind and Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo have been … let’s go with fine … the Bulls have gotten neither pace or space this season.
The Bulls are last in the league in effective field goal percentage, which is a pretty important stat, at 48 per cent and they’re averaging fewer than 100 possessions a game.
You can see the problem there.
If not for Butler’s incredible run and Robin Lopez’s great defence, the Bulls would probably be buried, but those two have kept the team afloat to the point where they’re the No. 3 seed in the East.
But watch them and count how many people are in the lane at any given moment. It’s like watching 5th graders when they moved to the 10-foot hoop.
MOST RAGE (IN A GOOD WAY): RUSSELL WESTBROOK
MOST SWAG: THE LAKERS
You can feel the fever in L.A. — the Lakers are back. Pay no attention to the fact that the Clippers are the best team in the city, the Lakers have a chance to be the 8th seed in the Western Conference this year!
The Lakers are playing good ball — the elimination of Kobe and the introduction of a coach who doesn’t think it’s 1981 has opened up creative possibilities for the Lakers’ talented roster.
No player has been more liberated than Julius Randle, who has turned into an offensive glue guy in the mould of Draymond Green. (The defence … not so much.)
And how couldn’t they have the most swag when Swaggy P, Nick Young, is having a really, really good year on both sides of the court.
As if 2016 wasn’t weird enough.
LEAST SWAG (BUT THAT’S COOL): UTAH JAZZ
George Hill, the least swag name ever, is playing out of his mind and the Jazz, while up-and-down, look like a real threat in the Western Conference should they click late in the season.
But, you know, Utah.
BEST TEAMS: GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS AND CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
It’s a cowardly move, I know, but it doesn’t feel right to separate these teams. They’re both the juggernauts that we expected.
The Warriors are probably going to go down as the best offensive team in the history of the NBA and the Cavs aren’t going to be too far behind them. Neither has shown their A-game defensively.
Can we fast forward to Christmas (and then June)?